Myanmar refugee crisis

17-year-old Zokiya from Myanmar pictured at Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh

“They came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They have nowhere else to go.”

Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh is home to around one million Rohingya refugees, living in close proximity to each other. These are ideal conditions for the spread of coronavirus. Watch this video in which Ram Das, Deputy Country Director at CARE Bangladesh, explains how a well-coordinated humanitarian response has prevented a COVID catastrophe:

CARE has been on the ground in Cox’s Bazar supporting refugees and host communities since August 2017, when Rohingya people fleeing from violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State began crossing the border to Bangladesh in huge numbers. Many of them suffered severe trauma from violent attacks on their villages and families, and nearly all of them relied on humanitarian assistance to help to meet their basic needs.

When we came here for fear of our lives we had nowhere to go. People of CARE looked after us. When they saw we had no place to live, they gave us shelters. Now they give us more bamboo, tarpaulin, to make our houses stronger. - Syed Alom, a refugee from Myanmar

When the crisis began in August 2017, CARE, working with a local NGO partner, started immediate relief activities, including distributing food to families in need. Since then, we have assisted more than 315,000 refugees through shelter and site management, health, protection from gender-based violence, and water, sanitation and hygiene support. This represents 45% of the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar. Read more in this August 2018 report by CARE Bangladesh.

CARE was one of the first responders to the Myanmar refugee crisis


During the initial stage, CARE provided food and non-food items


Over 22,000 people received shelter kits

Water, sanitation and hygiene

Details of WASH support provided to Myanmar refugees by CARE

Health and nutrition

CARE has provided 65,000 people with health support

Children under 5 with malnutrition assisted by nutrition centres

Women and girls

We have set up 5 women-friendly spaces and 2 information booths.

Adolescent girls and children also visit the women-friendly spaces

Over 29,000 women and adolescent girls helped so far

Camp management

Camp 16 in Potibunia with 22,000 people is managed by CARE

Details of camp management services provided by CARE

Thanks to your support, we have already achieved a great deal. But with nearly a million Rohingya refugees still living in Cox’s Bazar, we are continuing to provide humanitarian aid and to work alongside people in the refugee camps and host communities to support women, children, and families.

The crisis in brief

An escalation of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in late August 2017 led to vast numbers of people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh in a desperate search for safety. Most of the refugees are women, children and small babies.

Hundreds of thousands of people sought shelter in host communities, existing refugee camps, new makeshift settlements or camps, or just wherever they could find space. Most were reliant on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic daily needs including food and water. This included an estimated 125,000 pregnant and lactating women and children under 5 who needed supplementary feeding.

This was a massive influx of people into a relatively small area near Cox's Bazar in southeast Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh and local authorities worked hard to meet the needs of the refugees, while local Bangladeshi families, with few resources themselves, assisted refugees where they could. CARE has been on the ground since the early days of the crisis, and with other humanitarian agencies we are continuing to work to meet the immense level of need.

CARE’s response

CARE has directly reached hundreds of thousands of people through the distribution of food, non-food items, health support, shelter, protection, and water and sanitation services.

Our emergency response team distributed cooked meals and dry food as well as essential items that families need: candles; matches; clothes; blankets and utensils.

We distributed the materials people need to build emergency shelters like tarpauins, bamboo and rope.

We set up women and adolescent-friendly spaces and providing counselling and a referral service for survivors of gender-based violence.

We worked with local partners to deliver community-based assessment and treatment of acute malnutrition.

We are assisting with refugee camp management and the coordination of emergency responses in the refugee camps.

As part of a consortium, CARE is providing technical support to the community-based management of acute malnutrition project.

We have also introduced a pioneering project with the local host community in Ukhiya, who have been affected by an influx of people displaced from their homes by the disaster. The project will support more than 38,000 people by improving their disaster risk resilience capacities; their WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) situation; and their overall living conditions.

Read more about CARE's response in our July 2019 Factsheet:

Rohingya Refugee Crisis factsheet July 2019